BTC officials in Exuma today said teams were working seven days a week to complete post-hurricane repairs and expected fixed line and internet service on the mainland and surrounding cays to be “fully restored ” in less than two weeks.
“We want to thank everyone for their patience and assure them that we are doing everything possible to get service back up and operating at 100% efficiency,” said Naaman Ellis, Senior Manager with responsibility for Exuma and the Cays. “In addition to the team which is moving from one area of the mainland to another, we have brought in specialists including tower riggers and contractors to make land-based repairs.”
The repair team is currently working on the eastern end of the mainland repairing downed lines in Rolle Town, Forbes Hill, Williamstown, and Hartswell along with outstanding landline or internet issues in George Town. From there they will move to the western side of the island — Farmers Hill, Moss Town, Barreterre, Jimmy Hill. According to Exuma customer service manager Sophia Hart, service has been restored to most business customers, the resorts of Emerald Bay and residents, banks, offices, stores and businesses of George Town, Exuma’s largest settlement.
Hurricane Irene lashed Exuma with winds of just under 70 mph August 25, downing power poles like paper matchsticks. Those poles are the lifeline for Exuma’s power and landline phone service.
“BTC leases space from BEC on the poles so the first task was for BEC to raise or replace poles so we could begin our work since most of our repairs involved the t-wire from poles to homes or other buildings. BEC has basically completed its work so we are able to move a lot faster,” said Ellis. “Our technicians have been putting in 12-hour days working seven days a week, every Saturday and Sunday since the hurricane. Our biggest threat slowing down the recovery process is that heavy construction trucks and other construction equipment are hitting lower-lying lines, sometimes those we have just repaired; we had this experience just this week in Forbes Hill. We are aware that everyone is moving swiftly to get things completed, but we are asking the public for their consideration to avoid hitting power poles and t-wire,” said Ellis.
Services to businesses, government offices and medical facilities were restored on a priority basis. The positive side of this is that we had just completed a cellular coverage improvement exercise, which kept the island connected. When this is all behind us, we expect the service in Exuma to be better than ever, as our technicians are also fixing potential trouble spots as they make repairs. So it has been like a clean sweep, giving us a chance to tackle problems that had not yet caused disruption. In that regard, Irene was a storm with opportunity riding on its winds.
BTC is also in the process of installing WiMAX units in the Exuma cays and on the mainland to improve service to customers outside our cable serving areas (rural) as far up the chain of cays to the popular cruising area of Staniel Cay. WiMAX will provide us with an important back-up service keeping the lines of telecommunication open during disasters,” Ellis continued.
Following the ravages of Hurricane Irene, BTC has announced its $250k donation to support restoration efforts. Additionally the Company has already provided some $1.9 million in mobile credit for customers throughout the Country.